An Associate Professor at Penn State Abington recently spent almost three weeks near the North Pole.
“It was probably the most incredible thing I will do in my life,” stated Ms. Bonnie Levinthal, Associate Professor of Art at Penn State Abington, according to a statement from the University. She was “reflecting on the 18 days she spent last fall aboard a tall ship, exploring a cluster of islands a mere 10 degrees latitude from the North Pole.”
Ms. Levinthal “was joined by two dozen other international artists and scientists for a residency, which allowed them to pursue personal projects while exploring collaboration with others,” noted the statement from the University.
“It’s almost hard to talk about,” said Ms. Levinthal. “There are no words to describe the immensity of the experience.”
“Ms. Levinthal gravitates to these hushed northern spaces, which inform her work,” continued the statement. “Since 1995, she has been to the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Newfoundland, Labrador, and she has traveled to Iceland three times. But the Arctic Circle was a ‘sacred space.’”
“We hiked over pristine landscapes,” stated Ms. Levinthal. “I was in awe each day…[describing] “the relatively flat expanse of white and the measured blue of the sky.”
The artwork above shows the “Detail of suminogashi Bonnie Levinthal created with seawater and sumi ink on the deck of a tall ship in the Arctic Circle,” according to the statement from Penn State Abington. “The unique patterns were made solely by the rock of the ship, and the colors reflect those in the Arctic landscape: snow, black rock, glaciers, ice, and the soft changing colors of dusk.”
“Part of Levinthal’s teaching philosophy that she shares with her students is that travel occurs in three stages: the imagining, the experience, and the response,” the statement continued from Penn State Abington.
“I go back through my journal and my memories,” Ms. Levinthal stated. “I take time to reflect and respond to the landscape I just left.”
According to the statement from the University, “The artist, who has taught at Abington since 1984, also took photographs and used a Japanese marbling technique, suminogashi, as a type of ‘journal’ of what she encountered in the Arctic. Suminogashi means ‘ink floating on water’.”
“The environment where you find yourself can impact what happens on the surface of the water with suminogashi,” Ms. Levinthal noted. “It could be a breeze. I wanted to be outside and work with the colors of the landscape. I let the rhythm of water and wind impact it. I was trying to record something about melting and the fragility of the northern landscape that we take for granted.”
“I make art about or of the place, and it imprints itself,” continued Ms. Levinthal. “Suminogashi is a direct response to the place, and then I paint from memory of that place. It’s emotional and personal. It took me a long time to figure out how to respond. It’s overwhelming and fabulous at the same time.”
The statement from Penn State Abington indicated that “Ms. Levinthal said the snow hides the blanket of trash that has invaded the north. As her group hiked, they would pick up bits of trash and microplastics that eventually find their way into the food chain.”
“Snow is a metaphor hiding the ugliness and battles over political dysfunction over saving and protecting our environment,” stated Ms. Levinthal. “It really left me with what I feel will be a lifelong mission that I’ll work to always bring awareness to this beautiful, fragile part of the world.”
If you would like to view the art created by Ms. Levinthal, the University noted that “Levinthal’s Arctic-inspired exhibit, ‘Another World; by a route obscure … ‘, is on view through February 24th at Napoleon Gallery, located at 319 North 11th St. in Philadelphia.”
The photographs were produced by Ms. Bonnie Levinthal and provided courtesy of Penn State Abington.